Robots.txt: A Beginners Guide

Robots.txt is a text file that website owners can create to instruct web robots (also known as crawlers, spiders, or bots) on how to crawl their website. The file is located in the root directory of a website and contains instructions for search engines and other bots about which pages to crawl or not crawl.

Here is a beginner’s guide to creating and using robots.txt:

  1. Understand the basics: The robots.txt file contains two basic directives: User-agent and Disallow. User-agent specifies which bots the directives apply to, and Disallow specifies which pages or directories the bots should not crawl. For example:

User-agent: * Disallow: /private/

This means that all bots should not crawl any pages in the /private/ directory.

  1. Determine which pages should be excluded: Identify any pages or directories that you don’t want search engines to index or show in search results. This could include pages with duplicate content, private pages, or pages with thin content.
  2. Create a robots.txt file: You can create a robots.txt file in any text editor or use a generator tool to create it for you. Save the file as “robots.txt” in the root directory of your website.
  3. Upload the file: Once you have created the robots.txt file, upload it to the root directory of your website using an FTP client or the file manager of your web hosting control panel.
  4. Test your robots.txt file: Use Google Search Console’s Robots.txt Tester to test your file and make sure that it is blocking the pages or directories that you intended to block.
  5. Keep your robots.txt file up to date: As your website evolves, you may need to update your robots.txt file to exclude new pages or directories.

Remember that robots.txt files are not foolproof and that some bots may ignore the directives. Additionally, robots.txt does not prevent pages from being indexed by search engines, but it can prevent bots from crawling those pages, which can indirectly affect their indexing. Finally, it’s important to note that while robots.txt can be a useful tool, it is not a substitute for other SEO best practices such as proper site architecture and content optimization.